On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Monday, April 29, 2013

Someone has a google news alert set up for himself!

Remember a while ago, when I complained about a race director's policies on my blog and then he came to my site and left some angry comments? That same race director - who I won't name, because he obviously scans the web for mentions of his company - has a new, odd policy.

You can read all about it on Emilie's blog. And I hope you do. And I hope you comment on it (he already has). And unnamed race director, if you read this: your races are well loved by the community. Please, please get someone to handle your marketing (proof reading your newsletters and handling communication for you).

PS: In case you're wondering how I'm doing during my work-imposed blogging moratorium, I'm well. The ER confirmed my sternum wasn't broken, although it really, really hurt for a while. On my next bike ride out, I loosened the tension on my clipless pedals too much and a piece fell out - so now they won't clip. Good riddance to those. Last week I discovered some TRAILS - like, real ones, complete with branches and rocks to trip you, kids smoking pot in the woods, and TURTLES in a pond - in Prospect Park. My life is forever changed.

Monday, April 15, 2013

My bike shanked me

What can I say? Everybody else was doing it.

At least that's how I felt, reading report after report of awesome bike rides on super sweet road bikes. Facebook photos, tweets, blog posts. And if everyone else is doing it, why can't I?

I don't have a road bike, but I can soup up my hybrid with pedals that clip, get some cycling shoes, and finally experience the full body cycling experience that is pushing down AND pulling up on the pedal.

If everybody else was jumping off a bridge, would you do that, too, Tracy? I forgot where I read it, but I saw a great answer to that once: yeah, probably. This person reasoned that his/her friends were all intelligent people, and if they were jumping off a bridge there was likely a good reason. Maybe the bridge was on fire?

And that's how I found myself in Prospect Park this past weekend on a nearly empty path, fancy shoes strapped to my feet, fancy pedals fastened to my bike.

And If you know anything about clipless pedals, you know where this is going: the next place I found myself was on the ground. Not immediately, mind you, not the very very first time I clipped in, but within about 10 minutes. I had gone roughly an eighth of a mile. Slowly.

Before I went to the park to try the new pedals, I read a lot about how to practice with them. I loosened the tension on the pedals so it was super easy to release the shoes. I balanced against a wall and did clipped in and out a bunch of times for practice getting used to the feeling. I started with one foot clipped in and one foot not. But no amount of practice prepares you for that moment when you try to stop but your right foot is clipped in and you find yourself lurching to the right. That slow motion feeling of "Crap, I'm going down. Noooooooooooo." Followed by the feeling of hitting the ground or, in my case, hitting the ground and then feeling the entire weight of your body slam your sternum into the blunt edge of your (straight) handlebars, now perpendicular to the ground.

My bike stabbed me. Or punched me, maybe. To say I had the wind knocked out of me doesn't do it justice. I gather from talking to medical experts my parents that the sternum is strong and it's unlikely that I'm bleeding internally, but that HURTS, yo. Pain. Both my knees are also purple and the right one is a little swollen, but the sternum - ow. Ow. Ow.

I iced it and took some painkillers until later I finally got some relief when I switched to beer. I mean, man has only been able to harness ice for the past hundred years or so. Painkillers, those are also new. Beer, now - that's medicine with thousands of years behind it.

A few notes: yes, my shoes clip into my "clipless" pedals. Or clip-in pedals. Whichever you prefer. The "clipless" part comes as an evolution from toe clips - these new pedals didn't have toe clips, see? They were clipless! My particular pedals are flat on one side and clippable on the other, so I can still use them with street shoes. But soon I'm sure I won't want to.

The best treatment for this level of misery is company. So, please, if you've ever wiped out on your bike, tell me about it? Also, anyone know what the chances are that I fractured my sternum?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I could have been a contender

A few weeks ago, I woke up with terrible joint pain. It was weird and uncharacteristic and it sent me promptly to the doctor. The test results weren't good, and I was sent for follow-up with an endocrinologist and a rheumatologist.

I didn't blog about it because it turned out to be nothing. My normal doctor asked some probing questions that had me convinced I was a goner ("have you been tired lately? have you been thirsty?" - the sorts of questions that immediately have you saying, "YES! YES! I am tired and thirsty! Do you have any water and can I lay down here for a minute?"). The specialists did an ultrasound and told me not to worry about it - fluctuations in the thyroid um something medical yeah blah blah blah totally normal. I'm supposed to go back again in six months or so.

Still, for a brief second in between "Will I die?" and "I hate being in chronic pain," I'll admit - a sneaky, sneaky thought snuck in... "Will thyroid meds make me magically lose weight and will that make me a better runner?"

This man needs more cake, fewer thyroid meds

I'm not alone in my line of thinking. If you haven't already, read this article in the WSJ about a doctor in Texas who is becoming notorious for prescribing thyroid medicine to elite runners (including Galen Rupp) who are borderline (read: completely normal by most assessments) for hypothyroidism with amazing results.

You didn't think I'd mention Galen Rupp without a picture
of the Galen Rupp Mask, did you?

The article (full disclosure: it was written by a friend of mine) is neutral in tone, neither condemning nor condoning the diagnoses and treatment. And, truth be told, I'm not sure how I feel, either. On one hand, cheating is bad. It's against the rules, by definition. On the other hand, where is the line? Thyroid drugs are performance enhancing, male enhancement drugs are performance enhancing, heroin is banned. Personally, I've come around to the idea that we should just have it be a free-for-all. This goes for cycling, too. Jack yourself up. Use whatever drugs you want. No more testing, just an amped up, drug fueled race to the finish.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Running the High Line?

You know an article is worth reading when it refers to us as "joggers."

The latest from the NYT's Well Blog (I guess that's "well" like "healthy," but for some reason I always picture the authors peering down into a deep, dark well of running knowledge - "well" like "baby Jessica") tells us that we should be running New York's High Line.

Hidden in that article is one key point: "a completed High Line would... end at the Jacob Javits Center at 34th Street, making the entire park 1.45 miles." But it's not completed yet. It ends at 30th St, so it's only 1m long. I guess that's not terrible as part of a longer run, but why bother?

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the High Line is an abandoned, elevated train track converted into a public park. A hugely popular public park. An insanely, hugely popular public park. In fact, seeing the High Line is the only thing on my brother's to-do list when he comes to visit me in a few weeks (except for seeing Showgirls: the Musical).

I seem to be the only New Yorker who doesn't like the High Line. When I first heard about it, before it opened, I had an uncomfortable feeling because it seemed like a crime trap waiting to happen (few entrances! isolated! elevated above street level!). Heavy traffic and limited hours have kept that from being the case, but by the time I realized it was safe, my discomfort had morphed into this general sense of, "Why?" I mean, of all the problems that the city needs to solve - recovery from Hurricane Sandy, high unemployment, giant sodas, rat kings - no place for tourists to go in Chelsea! really wouldn't top my list.

Pro tip: if you want to visit the High Line, do it on gallery night. Go first to the High Line, dodge the crowds of tourists, watch the sun set, see people having sex in nearby buildings. Then go to the free, open art galleries where you can stare at avant garde modern art, feel woefully unhip and old compared to the crowds, and sip small glasses of mediocre free wine.

Incidentally, for those of you from New England, I went to college in Rhode Island and I also hate "WaterFire." Maybe I just hate all public art?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

When my alarm went off Sunday morning at 7, I contemplated turning it off. I had spent all day Saturday driving to a friend's parents' house, and I was facing an entire day of family party - someone else's family.

I didn't turn the alarm off. Instead, I put my running clothes on and I stepped outside.

It was about 45 degrees, perfect for running in a dress and some arm warmers. I ran around the neighborhood for a bit and then down to the bay. I sat on the dock for a couple of minutes, watching the water, and then I ran back around the neighborhood. It was early and almost no one was out but for a dog walker or two.

Not to sound cliche, but it was calm, it was serene, it was peaceful. This is what I've been missing over the past month or so when I haven't been running as much: the feeling, coming in from a run, of being both physically exhausted and yet completely mentally recharged.

The rest of the day wasn't calm. At all. But I had that hour to myself.